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Interview with Paul Blake, Chairman of BBL

Quote:The British Basketball League closed the 2008-09 season with the Newcastle Eagles as champions. Founded in September 1987, BBL Chairman Paul Blake discusses on British basketball with, addressing the structure of the League first:

The Shareholders of the League are the constituent clubs each with an equal share. There is a small central group managing the day-to-day operations. The clubs have joint responsibility to generate central sponsorship

How many teams will compete next season in the championship, and which will be regulations on players elegibility?

In September there will be 13 clubs operating in the BBL, there is no promotion and relegation as the league is a franchise operation.

There are 3 permit players (overseas) allowed on each team, the rest is made up of European Union players with EU passports.

What´s the TV situation?

Currently we do not have a TV Contract. The rights are held by the BBL.

Please mention and comment about the sponsors.

We currently only have a ball sponsor, Molten, for the League

What are you satisfied the most in your League?

After a number of years of operating with large league sponsorship, we lost a number of teams when this disappeared. The teams are now sustainable without large sponsorship, which is difficult to get in the current economic climate. The clubs have/are developing extensive community programmes to broaden the reach of the sport and increase participation.

Arenas: what can you say about fans attendance to BBL matches?

Most clubs play in large sports centres and the average attendance across the clubs is between 500 and 3000. There is a lack of suitable sized arenas in the UK and until more are built it is difficult to grow attendance.

Media: what has been the evolution of media coverage in these last years?

We are treated badly by the national media in the UK with little coverage in National newspapers or National TV. We do get support from the regional media around the clubs, which is one of our strengths. In the last few years the National coverage has gone from intermittent to close to zero.

What about the relationship with the Federation?

We now have an excellent relationship with our national federation who are supportive of what we are trying to achieve. We operate on a 3 year rolling licence from the federation. However, it is only in the last 18 months that our relationship has improved, previous to that it was very poor.

Which are your plans of future for the League?

Our plans are around developing a better media strategy and get a TV contract. Without this it is difficult to grow the sport. We are currently involved in a working party in the UK to develop basketball and this includes the NBA, GB National team and the national Federation. We all understand that the game will grow if all the key stakeholders work together for the good of the sport. A new refreshing approach.

How do you imagine your League in 10 years?

We aim to be between 15 to 18 teams all operating in venues of more than 2,000 capacity with the sport having attendance that make it a top 3 sport in the UK. In the UK the sport is an exciting family sport with family groups making up the largest part of our fan base. Growing this to make it one of the top sports will generate more interest and larger fan base in the UK.

Quote:The British Basketball League (BBL) is delighted to confirm that the Essex Pirates Basketball Club will compete in the BBL Championship from the commencement of the 2009/10 season in September.

The new franchise will be based in Southend and play home games at the Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre. The County of Essex has a long and established history of basketball development and the introduction of the Pirates franchise marks a return to top-flight action for the County.

The Essex Pirates team is the top of a developmental pyramid created by GB Coach Tim Lewis and long time basketball operator Ian Mollard. Alongside the new BBL franchise there is an AASE programme (Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence) run through South East Essex College, an England Basketball Division IV team and a non-profit community coaching company which is already delivering coaching into Primary Schools across the county and hopes to expand coaching through the introduction of the BBL & EB's successful Hoops 4 Health initiative. Other exciting coaching and educational initiatives are set to launch in September.

BBL Chairman Paul Blake enthused, "We are delighted to invite this new exciting franchise into the BBL. Essex has a strong tradition of basketball participation and support and the plans that this organisation have to further develop the basketball community in this territory are very much in line with the strategic direction of the BBL. This is first time the league has entertained 13 teams since the 2000/01 season. We are looking to make further franchise development progress in the next two to three years as a priority in identified territories as we look to expand to 16 teams. We wish the new franchise the best of luck for the forth coming season both on and off the court."

Ian Mollard said, 'We have all worked exceptionally hard to create an environment in Essex and particularly Southend where development of talented young players is a priority for us going forward. The Council in Southend have been exceptional in their support and enthusiasm to bring top professional basketball to the County and recognise the potential of the sport with the London Olympics rapidly approaching'

The BBL will be announcing their competition format for next season in the coming days with the fixture schedule anticipated to be announced by the end of June.

Quote:The Big Storage Cheshire Jets are happy to announce that their highest scorer of 2008/09 season Chez Marks will be returning to Chester after signing late last night for another season at the Northgate.

The 6ft 2 shooting guards Jets season came to an abrupt end back on the 1st of March during a Warrington home match against Worcester Wolves when Chez suffered a broken arm in the second quarter with doctors predicting he's be out of action for up to six weeks. Since returning to Kentucky Chez has been working with physios and doctors to regain the form that saw him entered into the BBL team of the week on several occasions.

Speaking to us last night Chez said,

"I was delighted to get the Call from coach smith to invite me back for a second year it definitely feels like I've got unfinished business at the Jets. At the point of breaking my arm we'd gone eight games undefeated and it felt like we were the best form team in the league at the time. I look forward to coming back to Chester to try for some well earned silver wear this season. I have missed the team and the home fans who have shown me so much support."

Chez will be flying back into the UK to start training at the end of August, before the start of the season at the end of September.

Head Coach Paul Smith says;

Chez has consistently been a top class player across Europe for the last five years. His three point shooting was amongst the best in the BBL last year. Due to injury Chez only played half of the games last season and as Chez say's we all believe there is unfinished business for the Jets from last season. For the team bringing back Chez will mean the younger players and junior Jets will have a great role model to look up too both on and off the court. We look forward to welcoming him back in August.

Recruitment for the rest of the squad is making progress and we hope to have further announcement over the next few week.
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